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DNR discusses plan in first of three public forums at state museum

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The Indiana Department of Natural Resources hosted the first of three public forums Monday night in a conference room at the Indiana State Museum in downtown Indianapolis.

The meeting, attended by over 60 people, many from Brown County was scheduled to last for two hours and was billed as a being a time for citizens to comment. However, the first hour was used to discuss the DNR’s 2015 – 2019 strategic plan.

Around fifty minutes into the meaning, a man claiming to represent the Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club stood and asked how much time the DNR was planning to allow for public comment. Other citizens agreed with him. Among them was Paulette Justice, a retired nurse from Brown County.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve come a long way …” she said. “I think at 7:30, it should be our turn.”

The gentleman from the Sierra Club called for a vote, asking for a show of hands to indicate how many people wanted to go to the public comment section. The majority of people in the crowd raised their hands.

However, the strategic plan also involves changes in the way the DNR works with private land owners. Brenda Hunter, Stewardship Coordinator for the DNR, reminded the audience that not everyone was there for the same reasons, and that some people might want to hear about the changes affecting private landowners. The audience acquiesced and Hunter went on to briefly explain the changes.

With 57 minutes left in the evening, the floor was opened for public comment. To keep things orderly, Hunter read names from the sign-in sheet, calling on people to see if they would like to comment. All other comments were written down on comment cards and handed in, with John Seifert, State Forester promising to have answers up on the DNR’s website by the end of October.

Among the commenters was David Seestrom of Brown County. He called for a vote to see who else was from Brown County. About twenty hands went up. Seestrom went on to lodge a complaint at having to drive so far to make a comment in person. That sentiment was shared by several other commenters.

But DNR stood by their decision on how the three meetings were scheduled.

“We’re having the same number of meetings we’ve had in the previous strategic plan,” Seifert said. “In this one, we even had an extra – 3 meetings plus a stewardship meeting.”

As for the locations of the meetings, Seifert said that meetings are scheduled in the north, the central and the southern parts of the state.

Audrey Moore of the Indiana Forest Alliance said that, as a young person, climate change is of great concern to her. She commented that she was upset that climate was only mentioned once in the meeting.

Angelo Titilo stood and commented on both his dislike for parts of the plan and the way certain audience members were treating the DNR officials at the meeting. He reminded the audience not to shoot the messengers, and to “elect people with similar values.”

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